Co-parenting when one parent is often absent

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-06-1999
Co-parenting when one parent is often absent
26
Fri, 08-09-2013 - 3:23pm

I wasn't sure which forum was right.  Parenting or relationships.  However, relationships clearly wins out on this issue.  Kids are part of the problem, but the issue is between her and I.

I'm a stay-at-home dad.  My wife is out making the big bucks.  Classic story in a sense.  She works about 70 hours a week (at night, on weekends, while on vacation).  She is a key player at her small company and things would fall into shambles without her constant guidance and input.  She's a brilliant engineer and I can't say enough good things about her in that regard.

I'm at home with the kids.  I help out in their school, meet with the teachers, go on field trips, sit down with them while they do their homework, prepare food for them, do the shopping, laundry, etc...  My wife helps out where she can, but between work and travel, she is not home enough to really be counted on to keep things running.  So I end up making the rules for the kids and keeping things running day to day.  Anyone with kids can tell you, it's a moving target.  Times change, needs change, desires change, kids change.  Rules need to change to keep up with the current state of the family.  I am constantly re-visiting what works and what doesn't.  If my wife is around and we have the time, we will discuss it and come up with a plan together.  However, it's impossible to keep her informed of every thing that happens day to day (I don't have the time to communicate it all, and she doesn't have the time to absorb it all).  I stick to telling her things that are really stumping me.  Such as our 8 year old daughter who appears to be turning 13.

Here is the issue:  When she comes home she feels left out.  I'm juggling it all, and she feels like an outsider.  Even her making simple decisions for the kids, such as "Can I have desert?", can break "my" rules and vex me.  She feels like she doesn't know the lay of the land and can't "be a parent", because she might make a decision in opposition to one of mine.  Then I will take her to task for it and the kids will figure this out and play us against each other.  Neither of us want that.  This "lack of role" in her own family, has been pushing her farther away.  Such that coming home to be with all of us is viewed as a source of conflict.  So she begins making a concious choice to spend her time elsewhere to avoid the conflict.  Since she is not needed/wanted, why bother coming home?

I have been proud that I can juggle so much and keep everything running, freeing her up to work/travel as needed.  I often give her permission to go out and socialize and enjoy her hobbies, because it reduces her stress and keeps her happy.  I have a saying at home "If mamma is not happy, no one is happy".  What I haven't realized is that mamma is giving up and becoming estranged from our family.  Lately her absence has become obvious and has led to a growing internal resentment on my part.  I am left feeling more and more like a single parent.

Any advice on how we find a balance?  How do we keep the family running like a well oiled machine during her long work days and travels, yet make her feel wanted/needed when she is home?  How do you step in and take over running the family, when you aren't up to date on all that is going on and how the house is being run?

This could tear our marriage apart if we don't start reversing this trend ASAP.

Brokk...

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-06-1999
Sun, 08-11-2013 - 11:46am

No semantics.  Permision means she can't do it unless I OK it and vice versa.  That is exactly how it works.  She can't go out unless I OK it and I can't go out unless she OKs it.  Not sure where the confusion came from on that one.

Perhaps I am confused and you are saying "she is physically capable of going out without your permission".  Yes, and we are all capable of breaking the law, yet there are consequences to doing so.  In this case it would be a broken trust and perhaps a broken marriage.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-06-1999
Sun, 08-11-2013 - 11:50am

I agree that more family time together is important.  No argument there.

You say she is wrong to want to spend any time away from the family.  Would it also be wrong for me to spend time away from the family?  I ask because a couple of comments thus far have said pretty directly that I should be doing that for my own sanity and the health of the family.  However, what's good for the goose is good for the gander.  Why doesn't she have the same rights? Does she give them up by being the breadwinner?

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-06-1999
Sun, 08-11-2013 - 12:22pm

I agree that more family time together is important.  No argument there.

You say she is wrong to want to spend any time away from the family.  Would it also be wrong for me to spend time away from the family?  I ask because a couple of comments thus far have said pretty directly that I should be doing that for my own sanity and the health of the family.  However, what's good for the goose is good for the gander.  Why doesn't she have the same rights? Does she give them up by being the breadwinner?

Community Leader
Registered: 08-25-2006
Mon, 08-12-2013 - 7:31pm

Hey Brokk, I read through the thread and just another quick thought.

I really don't know that you can do anything different.  Granted, the idea of meal planning wasn't what your DW was referring to, but you are trying.  Your DW can't have it all. Period. 

Or as Jane Fonda says, "we can have it all, but just not at the same time." 

In my line of work, females always quit when the have their first child.  We did take a chance and hire a gal with two children and after two weeks we had to let her go.  By the 3rd night away from her family it was clear it wasn't going to work.  That was even with her DH working from home. 

I also thought from your first post that she owned the business.  Working 70 hours a week for someone else is fine, if you are okay with it and the pays supports that kind of time.  But the problem is that your DW isn't okay. 

If the two of you agreed to this for a certain amount of time to reach some kind of goal, that is fine.  Your DW will have to accept a few things.  I do hope though, that you two talk and come to agreements about how to parent the kids.  If you agree to things, then she doesn't have to say "go ask dad."  I don't want you think that I don't think she should parent.  Hope that makes sense.

Can you and the kids go have lunch or dinner with her on the days she works?  I don't think you ever said how many dinners she misses, or weekends.  I hope you all at least get an uninterupted Sunday!  I mean, unless you are a police officer or firefighter, or 911 operator, how important is it really? 

I occasionally work late to get something out that is important, but it is the exception and not the rule.

Hang in there and keep us posted. 

Serenity CL making a second marriage work

Serenity
iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Tue, 08-13-2013 - 10:52am

I do think that each person should be able to have some time alone to be with friends or pursue their own interests.  The issue is that she feels that she's not connecting to the kids so she needs to spend more time with them & not stay away from them in the very limited time she has that she's not working or sleeping.  You're with the kids every day so if you go out with friends once a week, it's not going to affect your connection with them.  Unfortunately I think that when someone works so many hours per week that they basically have given up on activity time because there is only so much time in a week.  I mean that's why I chose to work fewer hours & make less money because I don't want my whole life to be work.

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-16-2002
Wed, 08-14-2013 - 2:22pm

So what were her suggestions about how she could become more involved in the day-to-day family life?  I'm only hearing what your suggestions were?  And I completely agree with the others here about her spending more and more time away because she feels left out.  She needs to spend the time at home, as much time as possible, so the kids get used to her being there and get used to her being their mom.  Whether this means helping with homework, making a meal together, or just sitting watching a movie and then talking about it after.  If you don't engage, then you disengage, and you find your outlets elsewhere (and you know how that can turn out!).  The two of you agreed that you would stay at home and she would work, now the two of you need to come to an agreement about how she can be part of the family once again. 

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

.  -Albert Einstein

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-20-2009
Fri, 08-16-2013 - 2:10am

What I meant is that you don't give her "permission" in the way that you'd give a child permission to do something, and they would be punished if the did it without permission.  Of course you have to check with each other to see if being away would be convenient or inconvenient, but that's not the same as permission.  And again, reversing roles, there is no reason why you can't occasionally go out with your buddies, just as stay at home wives should have some girlfriend time occasionally.  I'm sure when she's travelling she has plenty of time to be "out" with friends and co-workers......and she should really spend her free time at home with her kids. 

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-06-1999
Sun, 08-18-2013 - 12:54pm

Sory for the delay in responding, I lost the link to the thread and it took me a while to remember to look it up.

What were her suggestions?  Well she really didn't want to suggest anything.  She feels I tend to shoot down her ideas and will only impliment something if I think of it myself.  A tad frustrating since she clearly has an idea, but won't tell me.  Eventually I badgerred her into speaking one and I cast doubt on it.  Which resulted in a huge blow up.

Her suggestion was for me to tell her what to do to help out when she gets home.  Such as I'm cooking supper and juggling the kids, to throw her at something that needs getting done so she can chip in and help.

The idea wasn't initially appealing to me as I have difficulty effectively and efficiently explaining how to do something.  So if I'm in the middle of juggling something of my own design, trying to hand off a piece of it would take more time and effort than just doing it myself.

However, after thinking about it for a bit and hashing over the concept of her meal planning, it because easier in my mind since I would just be following "her" plans to begin with.  She would already be familiar with the details and handing off part of it would not require much explaining or direction from me.  She should be able to jump right in.

Yet, the damage was done.  I had cast doubt on the viability of her suggestions and she was livid with hurt and anger.  Those first few words had proved her point and she was kicking herself for giving in and saying her suggestion out loud.

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Sun, 08-18-2013 - 6:09pm

I think we've generally been hard on your DW but now I can see why she wants to absent herself from the family.  She already told you that she was hesitant to put forth her own ideas cause you'll say no, you "badger" her into doing that--and then you shoot it down.  How hard can it be to give her a task when she's an adult?  I think that many SAHMs do this--they figure that they are running the house so their way is the only way and the dad must be an idiot.  My ex used to point out to me how many commercials for household products adopt this thinking--the man is so dumb he can't wash the clothes or take care of the kids.  So really how hard is it to ask her to make a salad or to set the table or take care of what ever crisis is going on with one of the kids at that moment?  And you have to make sure not to criticize if she doesn't do things exactly as you would do it.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-06-1999
Sun, 08-18-2013 - 8:37pm

At times, I wish I could limit my communications with her to something like email.  Where you get your information/questions in a chunk.  You can read it at your leisure, mull things over from different angles, then respond with a well thought out clear and concise message that represents your true feelings on the subject.  Too often the wrong thing comes out before I have a chance to look at things all the way.  However, if I just sit there without responding, just thinking it over, that also doesn't win me any points.

Yes, I feel bad about what I said.  I wish I could erase it as if it never happened.  However, she will *never* forget those few seconds, no matter what I say afterwards.